Treating People Uniquely

Recently I was reflecting on a quiet transformation that has taken place from how I make “people decisions” now, compared to when I was a young. Looking back, I made both good and bad decisions but the ones I remember most are the ones where I wish I had done things differently.

The instance that bothers me most took place in the mid 70’s when I was an educational consultant responsible for evaluating marginally performing kids. I was scheduled for an after school evaluation with a student when I inadvertently walked into the wrong room, where I saw a teacher’s aide smoking a joint in the empty classroom. I barely knew the man but was aware that he was a recently returned Vietnam vet who had lost an arm during the war.  How did I react? We locked eyes; neither of us said anything and I quietly backed out of the room. Without hesitation I went straight to the principal’s office to report what I had seen.  The consequence of my response, as you might have guessed, led to his firing.

I have always wanted a “do over” for the hasty decision I made that day. Why did I not talk with him first, hear his story, and learn something about his pain? For years I was reminded of my quick judgment because this man became a homeless vet. I know this because I would see him from time to time around town: a painful reminder that I could have put my principles down to learn more about his story and perhaps gain some empathy.  His decision to smoke marijuana on school grounds was a bad one but my decision to quickly report his misdeed prevented him from having an opportunity to get another chance.

As an INTP, my dominant introverted thinking judgment is my best ally for solving problems and making decisions. However, when it comes to people problems determining what is “right” or “logical” does not always deliver the ideal result. A leader needs the solid foundation of good policies and procedures but equally important is having the good judgment to know when to evaluate a problem from a human perspective.

I will always be a thinking decision maker but that does not mean that I am not aware that taking a course of action without taking the other person’s situation or perspective into account can lead to sad outcomes. The hard lessons of life…



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